Monday, August 28, 2006

Godless Ideologies

Ideologies are not bad in themselves. They are often heroic and ambitious attempts to make a kind of world-view of things, explaining them scientifically and extensively. In a way they are an unavoidable stage in man’s effort to develop.

Going beyond the merely philosophical and theoretical, they enter into the practical world of action, with programs, strategies and a network of agencies to carry out their ends. They convert doctrine into action.

As such, they can be useful. They can serve legitimate purposes. They can do a lot of good. Today, whether we are aware of them or not, they are a part of our lives, influencing us one way or another. We need to be discerning.

It’s when they are wrongly inspired, or when they overstep their limits, oversimplifying or exaggerating things, absolutizing the relative and relativizing the absolute, that they can become bad and dangerous.

History, sad to say, is full of such harmful ideologies. A product of some questionable philosophies and ultimately of human pride and vanity, they have proclaimed, for example, that there is no God, that there are no spiritual, much less supernatural realities.

With the assertion that there is no God, the authors of these ideologies make a world mainly consisting of their own selves. The world seems to begin and end with them. In short, there is no world outside their egos.

They seem to envision a world made exclusively of material things. Reality
is simply what one sees or feels. At best, it can be what one can understand and discover. But it’s a reality that dies with man. There is no reality after death.

Some have promised utopias based simply on earthly progress. Others have pontificated total human liberation exclusively through some socio-economic or political operations. There is no mention of liberation from sin, the real evil that fully corresponds to man’s condition.

Because of this congenital defect, these ideologies can lead to terrible consequences. If there is no God, the understanding of what man is gets warped, the use of power and authority can be easily abused, prone to use force.

The relation between person and society, private good and common good, etc., get twisted. Freedom is often understood as detached from the sense of responsibility or from an objective moral law. It tends to serve merely selfish ends, and thus easily gets corrupted, with matching results.

And so we can have that endless adventure of making all sorts of assertions, questioning every element in a established culture, religion, tradition, or moral order. Theories automatically are made into laws. Suspicions are given the same treatment as facts. We quickly create a surreal world.

The objective hierarchy of values, based on the nature of man and his relation with God and with others, gets altered to suit one’s subjective preferences.

Because of these dangerous features of the Godless ideologies, we have suffered the scourges of communism and socialism where the rights of the individual person are swallowed by the rights of the state. They thrive on atheism and totalitarianism.

There are also the abuses of capitalism, where self-centered individualism and consumerism are promoted, and the inhuman practice of holding the laws of the markets over human labor is observed.

Then you have the intoxicating strange blend of liberalism where, with freedom detached from an objective universal moral law, anything can be legalized—divorce, abortion, infidelity, same-sex union, wild scientific experiments like cloning, test-tube babies, etc.

The biggest mistake these ideologies commit is when they replace faith in God with their own ideas and doctrine, and when they derive their life and strength not from a living unity with God but from some human and earthly source.

Among them, the easier to detect and overcome are those associated with the Left, as recent history has confirmed. With their often absurd positions in issues, they are easily uncovered. They take advantage of the ignorance and poverty of the people. They lure them to fanaticism.

Those associated with the Right, because they are more subtle and deceptive, will take time and a lot of inhuman crises before they get finally exposed as they really are, that is, evil. But they’ll be exposed.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Media should foster dialogue

NO one can deny that the media play a very important role in society. They
are crucial in the task of transmitting news, promoting culture and development, and eliciting public opinion.

It is specially in the task of eliciting public opinion that they can exert great influence on the people, since they not only monitor but also shape public sentiments.

For this reason those involved in media should realize their need to be firmly and correctly grounded on what is our authentic common good, the ultimate guideline for everyone, and also adept in the art of fostering dialogue.

The idea is for media to have a very clear understanding of the common good and the expertise and prudence to achieve it. Of course, this is a dynamic thing, thus everyone should take time to study the concrete requirements of the common good at any given moment. This is a constant task.

One big disappointment that can be observed sometimes is the impression that some media people seem not to have a good understanding of the common good. They appear confined to private, sometimes openly selfish, interests clearly at odds with the common good.

This situation can only lead to conflict and disaster, and often can poison the atmosphere to the detriment of everyone. This should be avoided as much as possible.

Thus those in media should always feel the need for ongoing formation. Good intentions are not enough. Neither is the possession of some data. Much less
should one write or speak in public just because he is hired. Professionalism has a much deeper meaning than that one is simply paid for his service.

That those in media should also be adept in the art of fostering dialogue is due to the need to achieve as wide a participation as possible of people in the continuing discussion of public issues. Dialogue helps much in clarifying issues.

The idea is to make everyone responsible for the society we have, albeit in
varying degrees. It’s true that while the principles and elements of the common good can be clear, their application to relevant concrete situations can be tricky.
Thus, some kind of ongoing dialogue among all parties of society should be
fostered. And, therefore, the proper atmosphere for a healthy and substantive dialogue should be created and maintained.

This is where the media can play a truly important role. They can start by always reassuring everyone that they are open and receptive to all views, and prove this with their actions.

While those in media can assume a specific position with respect to an issue—social, economic, political, cultural, etc.—they should see to it that this stance does not turn off other people with different views.

Thus, opinions that are within the bounds of faith, morals and the common
good, should not be dogmatized as if they are the only correct opinions and the others are necessarily wrong. They should be given due consideration.

For this, good manners in the exchange of opinions should be maintained and fostered. Inflammatory talks and articles should be toned down. The public should be given as wide a variety of positions on an issue as possible. Wanting to dominate or to have the last word, is always impolite at the very least.

It is quite painful to see and hear media people posturing about as if they have the exclusive possession of what is right and correct. While they can be strong on their points, they should never forget to be personable and open-minded to everyone, especially to those who disagree with them.

To achieve greater balance and objective, a certain detachment from one’s views is always a must. This is normal in ordinary conversations. This should be more so in the field of public opinion.

It’s good that from time to time, media people should submit themselves to
some reality check, because they can tend to build their own world, their own virtual reality. An appropriate system should be found.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Unity in plurality

BECAUSE our society is getting increasingly pluralistic, it’s good that we all learn how to keep a sense of unity and solidarity among ourselves as we deal with each other in all our diverse views, situations, orientations, etc.

This necessity is a natural consequence of our human condition. It is due to our being at once both body and soul, spiritual and material, individual persons and social beings, living both in local and global, temporal and eternal, natural and supernatural orders.

But it’s also a condition that we need to work on, to foster and even defend if need be. It just doesn’t come about automatically. We need to realize keenly and constantly that it’s a duty incumbent on everyone to fulfill. Neglect in this duty can only spell disaster for all of us sooner or later.

For this purpose, we need to learn very well the art of dialogue and effective communication among ourselves in the different levels of our lives—from the individual to the social to the cultural and universal.

This dialogue has to be done always in the context of an abiding awareness of the requirements of our unity and our legitimate plurality and diversity among ourselves.

This can be achieved if we make an effort to know more deeply what makes us one. This is basically a matter of educating everyone in a sustained way about the common good, or what is truly good for all of us.

In this way, we can have an idea of what are the permanent elements of this
common good that should bind all of us, irrespective of race, culture, creed, gender, etc., as well as of the changeable elements that give rise to our legitimate differences.

These permanent elements can be the fact we are all creatures and children of God, we are all persons and not things deserving of unconditional love whatever may be our actuations and station in life.

These permanent elements can be the fact that we have a universal moral law and set of basic human rights and duties to rule us, that we live in the same world, that despite our differences we are actually responsible for each other, etc.

With respect to the changeable elements, we would know which are legitimate and not legitimate precisely when our knowledge of the common good is deep, going all the way to the ultimate causes and goals of our life.

For this purpose, we need to go beyond our individualistic tendencies and parochial mentality, cultivating attitudes and habits that enable us to be flexible and to acquire a more universal outlook even if we continue to be defined by local conditions and factors.

Thus, we need to polish and refine our manners, always being open-minded, eager to listen to all, respectful of everyone regardless of social status, discerning of what are essential from what are not, willing to make sacrifices, etc.

We also need to have a certain detachment from our views and opinions, in
order to facilitate a better consideration and discussion of issues. When opinions are dogmatized, we will have a good formula for division.

We need to study the sciences, including philosophy and theology, to broaden our minds and hearts, and to attain a more sublime knowledge of the truth, goodness and beauty.

This will help us to see more things, and to see them more analytically. This will also help us to integrate and synthesize these things, thus leading us to capture the more universal values as we face an ocean of varying options and opinions, each one with its relative value.

Of course, what is even more basic and indispensable is when we pray, when we strive to dialogue always in the presence of God. This will infuse us with an uncanny sense of what will work and what will not work for a fruitful dialogue.

This is the challenge we face now. But I must say it concerns more our leaders, both in the Church and in society—our priests and bishops, our parents and teachers, our public officials and politicians, etc.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Loving the Church

WE have to be more conscious of this duty, especially at these times. Certain developments, sadly led by some reckless Church leaders, are distorting, even perverting, the Church’s sense of power, authority and purpose.

The Church, of course is a great mystery. No one can dare to say he has the
full understanding of it. Yet Christ, its founder, through his words and actions, through his life and death, has left us with a good idea of what it is and how it should be.

It’s part of divine revelation entrusted to all of us in the Church, both pastors and lay faithful, each with their proper roles. It’s a revelation that is now amply articulated in many Church documents like the constitutions “Lumen gentium” and “Gaudium et spes.”

And yet, it seems all these are ignored. The indication, for example, for the clergy and the hierarchy to stay out of politics is quite clearly spelled out already, together with their reasons.

It’s an indication that surely is based on the life and example of our Lord Jesus Christ who, in spite of many irregularities of the political environment of his time, did not get entangled with politics. He did not allow himself to get distracted.

He once said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and
to God the things that are God’s” (Mt 22,21), defining the distinction and relationship between the eternal and temporal realities, the spiritual and material things that govern our lives here on earth.

In my view, it’s also an indication that needed to be clearly spelled out after a long, painful and ugly Church history that saw the mess created when the clergy—from popes down—got enmeshed in worldly affairs.

Imagine, popes who acted also like kings with armies and wealth, who entered into wars and engaged in really dirty politics, and of course who committed all sorts of crimes!

That was the period of Caesaropapism and clericalism, a confusion of spiritual and temporal powers that contradict the gospel message.
Recent actuations and statements of some bishops indicate there’s a trend to return to this ugly mentality and culture of the Church in the past. Things may not be that clear yet, but the symptoms are already there.

Their justifications vary from the funny to the absurd. That they are just acting as one more ordinary citizen is ridiculous, given the fact that they simply would not be given the attention they enjoy now from the media and the public if they were not bishops.

That they are simply voicing out what seems to them as the right thing to do, or even the moral option for people to take, is even more ridiculous. Are they suggesting that those who have a different view are taking the wrong road or the immoral option?

They may not realize it, but the actuations and statements they have just done make them appear more of a temporal power than a spiritual authority. This is a disturbing development.

Because of their position in the Church, bishops need to be truly prudent in their actuations and statements on politics. It’s a certain sensitivity that guides them to distinguish between what they ought to do especially with respect to politics, which they also have to evangelize, and what is already engaging in partisan politics.

That’s why the Church’s social doctrine has articulated clear guidelines about how this prudence in politics on the part of the hierarchy should be lived and developed. These teachings should be studied thoroughly.

Bishops have a very important role to play in Christianizing politics. It’s not a matter of coming up with concrete political positions. It’s more of creating the proper atmosphere for a free and responsible discussion of issues. It’s more of facilitating substantive and fruitful dialogues among all the parties involved, reminding everyone of the requirements of the common good.

Their role is also to remind everyone of the need we have of the spiritual and supernatural means in our efforts to live out our political life. These can never be neglected. And the hierarchy is the proper authority to make this reminder.